The New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association has established a second task force to plan and coordinate a safe return of high school sports.

The NJSIAA on Thursday announced the creation of the COVID-19 Sports Advisory Task Force, which will be comprised of a group of athletic directors who will consider sport-specific proposals and recommendations on how and when athletic practices and competition can resume.

Last week, the NJSIAA announced the formation of the COVID-19 Medical Advisory Task Force, which includes medical professionals and the NJ Department of Education.

The two task forces – one medical and one athletic – “will work independently but will communicate regularly and provide ongoing counsel to each other”, according to a press release. Recommendations from both task forces will be made to the NJSIAA, which will, in turn, work with government and National Federation of High Schools guidelines to manage a restart of high school sports.

The Sports Advisory Task Force will be chaired by Rutherford High School athletic director and former NJSIAA President Dave Frazier. Christian Brothers Academy athletic director Vito Chiaravalloti will sit on the task force along with Denis Nelson, River Dell High School athletic director; Kevin Murphy, Washington Township High School athletic director; Ryan Miller, Scotch Plains-Fanwood High School athletic director; Dan Uszaki, Northern Burlington Regional High School athletic director and Todd Ricker, Parsippany Hills High School athletic director. Tom Mullahey, Clifton High School athletic director, will serve as the NJSIAA Executive Committee liaison, and Colleen Maguire, NJSIAA Director of Finance and Administration, will serve as the NJSIAA liaison.

“More than anyone else, athletic directors want to see a safe return to high school sports,” Frazier said in the press release. “But, we also clearly understand the significant challenges ahead. I’m confident we’ll make tremendous progress, and optimistic that we’ll see kids playing again before too long. But, it’s essential to manage expectations and prepare our student-athletes – as well as those who cheer them on – for the short-term changes that may be necessary.”

“Input from our peers will be essential as we try to navigate the various guidelines, the needs of our member schools and the concerns of our student-athletes,” Mullahey said.

On May 20, the NFHS released guidelines on returning to play, including a three-phase approach that groups sports into low-risk, moderate-risk and high-risk categories. Those guidelines set the wheels in motion for the NJSIAA to begin planning for the fall and has sparked several ideas on how that will happen. Mainland Regional High School athletic director Mike Gatley recently proposed a dramatic restructuring of the high school calendar, including moving baseball and softball to the fall and football and wrestling to the spring.

Schools in New Jersey have been closed since March 18 when Gov. Phil Murphy ordered all in-person classes to cease because of the COVID-19 pandemic. On May 4, schools were officially closed for the remainder of the academic year and the spring high school sports season was canceled.

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